I am so excited to be back today to talk more about counting activities and discussions. In our previous post, we talked about Counting Objects, and how to use Counting Collections to create hands-on experiences.

Today we will dive deeper into how to use Counting Collections with your students after you have done them a few times. We will discuss how to keep them fresh and exciting for your students as the year progresses, how to tweak these counting activities to align with the content standards you are working on, and how to use them to build and strengthen your relationships with students and the classroom community.

## How to Keep Counting Activities Fresh!

#### Reflecting on Counting Activities

Whenever you do a Counting Collection, spend some time doing a short reflection with your students at the beginning of the lesson. We want them to consider what they learned from their previous Counting Collection experience(s) and how that might help them count this new collection. The discussion helps students see this next Counting Collection as a new challenge as they strive to make improvements and apply what they learned from last time.

To jog students’ memory, reference pictures that you took of students’ previous collections and/or project students’ recording pages on the document camera. Sidenote: It’s always a good idea to save students’ recording pages for future reference. I like having students store their recording pages in their math binder to help instill a sense of ownership and to allow them to see how their work progresses over time.

Here are some discussion questions and prompts to consider using at the beginning of your lesson:

- What did your group do that was an example of great teamwork and collaboration? What could your group have improved on in this area?
- Think about how you organized and counted your collection last time. What would you have done differently that you want to remember for this time? What worked well that you want to remember for this time?
- What stuck with you that you learned from when another group shared about how they counted their collection?
- What are some ways you could be even more efficient with your counting?

#### Organizational Materials for Counting Activities

Another layer to add to your counting activities is to offer organizational materials for students to utilize. Organizational materials are excellent for helping students keep track of large quantities, and they allow students to count (and recount) their collections efficiently.

Instead of telling students what materials to use and how to use them, it’s best to have the materials available for students to use if they choose. You might introduce a material or two and spark some thinking and conversation with students about how they might use them. Some ideas for organizational materials include:

- Cups
- Bowls
- Plates
- Containers
- Muffin tins
- Ice cube trays
- Five frames
- Ten frames
- Rubber bands

## Counting and Number Recognition Activities

Here are some prompts and questions that might drive the discussion after students use organizational materials during their counting activities:

- Did you choose to use an organizational material? Why or why not?
- Why did you choose the material that you used?
- Did you consider or try any other organizational materials? If so, why didn’t you end up choosing them?
- Take a look at the organizational materials your classmates used. What observations can you make about how they used them?
- How do the organizational materials help reduce the chance of miscounting your collection?
- How could you arrange the organizational materials to help make counting even easier? (i.e. take bowls of 10 items in each and arrange the bowls into an array so that you can skip count by 10s easily)

#### Student Groupings for Counting Activities

Another way to keep Counting Collections fresh and exciting is to vary student groupings. Provide opportunities for students to work with different-sized groups. Try Counting Collections with students in pairs, groups of three, and groups of four students. Anything beyond four students is probably too many cooks in the kitchen! Change who students are grouped with so that they are continuously engaging with new people and new ideas.

I do not recommend placing students in leveled groups for counting activities. When we use leveled groups, students tend to work with the same people over and over again. Not only can this get boring, but it also limits students’ ability to learn from and engage with a variety of ways of thinking.

**ALIGNING COUNTING ACTIVITIES TO CONTENT STANDARDS**

One of the best things about these counting activities is that they can connect with so many math content standards. You can (but you do not have to) intentionally select items for students to count that have a connection to the content and skills your students are learning. Here are some examples to consider:

#### Geometry Counting Activities

Have students count a collection of pattern blocks, attribute blocks, magnetic tiles, or 3D shape blocks. As they are counting, students will likely name the shapes and observe their characteristics. You might even ask your students to count the total number of sides of the shapes in their bag.

#### Measurement Counting Activities

Give your students a bag of varied lengths of string and ask them to count the total number of inches (or any unit of your choice) of string in the bag. You can also give students a bag of measurement tools, such as rulers or measuring tape, and ask them to find the total number of inches (of any unit of your choice) in the bag. With any measurement Counting Collection, you can ask your students to provide their answers in more than one unit.

#### Fractions Counting Activities

Give students a bag of fraction manipulatives, such as fraction tiles or fraction towers and have them find the total value of the bag. You can also use pattern blocks and assign a value to one of the blocks and have the students find the value of the bag. For instance, make the hexagon worth ½, ¼, or even one whole, and then students will have to figure out the value of the other pieces from there in order to find the total value of the collection.

Here are several other ideas to consider as you think about connecting these counting activities with content standards:

- Have students create story problems that can be acted out using the total amount of items in the collection.
- Ask students what the total amount in their collection would be if it were _____ more or _____ less or even _____ times more or _____ times less.
- Ask students to write an equation that shows how they arrived at the total number of items.
- Have students compare their group’s total amount of objects to another group’s total and write a comparison statement to show which collection is larger/smaller.
- Ask students to justify how they know if the total amount of objects in their collection is even or odd.
- Adjust the quantities in the collections as you progress through the school year.

Remember, these are just some ideas to get you started. The possibilities are truly endless!

**STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNITY WITH COUNTING **ACTIVITIES

#### Appealing to Students’ Interests

Use Counting Collections as an opportunity to connect with your students and show them you care about their interests by choosing items that are appealing. Think outside the box and consider using items that are exciting and engaging for your students. For example, I once was having a conversation with a student about his trip to the beach, and he happened to mention how much he loves collecting seashells.

I ended up finding a huge collection of seashells at a garage sale and was able to bring those in for a Counting Collection. You better believe he was excited about that! Side note: Seashells are amazing for defining and analyzing attributes, sorting, and making patterns. Here are some additional ideas for items that might appeal to students’ interests:

- sports cards
- Pokemon cards
- golf tees
- beads
- race cars
- small toy animals, bugs, etc.
- pages of stickers
- and more – the possibilities are endless!

#### Meaningful Discussion Around Counting Activities

In my first post about Counting Objects, I emphasized the importance of the class discussion that occurs after students finish counting. Any time you foster engaging mathematical discussion among students, you are cultivating a positive classroom culture that prioritizes students learning from one another.

The discussion that takes place after a Counting Collection is a phenomenal opportunity for students to engage with Math Practice 3 from Common Core, which states that students should have opportunities to “construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others” in the math classroom. Students engage with this practice by justifying their thinking using mathematical reasoning.

They explain why they chose the counting strategy that they did and how that helped them arrive at an answer. As the class listens to these explanations, students are able to evaluate their classmates’ ideas, ask questions, and offer constructive feedback. Throughout the discussion, students see that there is more than one right way to go about counting a collection, and they can solidify or revise their own thinking about these strategies as they listen to each other.

This process establishes the notion that all ideas are welcome and valued in your classroom, thus creating a safe, collaborative environment for your students. As you do more of these counting activities in your classroom, students will become increasingly comfortable sharing their reasoning. You might offer some prompts or questions to keep the conversations going but strive to let your students lead the discussion. When we talk less and listen more, our students have more opportunities for their ideas to shine.

Counting Collections is truly one of those evergreen tasks that you can revisit all year long and still have them be engaging and worthwhile for your students. I hope this post helped you find some valuable ideas to support the continued implementation of these counting activities in your classroom. Do you have any other ideas for incorporating Counting Collections in your classroom? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

HAPPY COUNTING!

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